Is It Better To Build Or Renovate A Home?

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You have three main choices for building a building: create new, renovate your current space, or acquire and renovate a new area. Deciding between these options will significantly impact your project’s budget, schedule, and the resulting structure.

The option that’s right for your project will depend on your goals and the building or property itself. In this article, we’ll lay out the general rules to help you determine when it might be better to build new versus when it is best to renovate.

To build or not to build, that is the question. We often get asked by homeowners whether we think they should renovate their existing home or build a new one. The answer, of course, depends on your unique situation, how far off your existing home is from your dream, how you feel about your current location, and what your financial goals and plans are either way. The important thing is to consider what each path offers. 

Commonly Used Terms

It may be helpful if the homeowner is familiar with some terms in the industry. In construction, several commonly used terms are alternately used by many people, not knowing that they have distinct differences in meaning.

The first of these terms is renovate, which means to restore to a better condition through cleaning, repair or rebuilding. This is done when a house begins to show wear and tear signs after many years of exposure to the elements. Some examples would be repainting, replacing roof gutters and downspouts, replacing or repairing roof eaves destroyed by water seepage during typhoons, and cleaning a storm drain. Looking for dual occupancy? Look no further! MJS Construction Group has you covered.

Then there is the term remodel or remake, which is to change the house’s structure or style. This is when the owners want their home to be updated or keep up with modern architectural trends, such as when they transform their house style from traditional to minimalist, which has been the trend these past years. Before designers opted for the Mediterranean look, now many houses are switching to the more fashionable minimalist look or stylized Asian design.

The other commonly used terms are reconstructed and rebuilt, which means building something that has been destroyed or damaged. Examples would be houses damaged after a fire or an earthquake. These two terms have often been used lately to describe efforts to rehabilitate structures affected by the recent supertyphoon.

So back to the question, “How can you tell if you should renovate or build a new structure?”

The first question to ask is, “Is it worth preserving?” The answer may be as personal as preserving a house that has meant so much to the family. Once sentimental issues are resolved, the technical aspects can be studied.

Renovation and New Construction – An Overview

The term “new construction” is pretty straightforward. The house is designed and built from the ground up. Everything is newly built and installed. Renovation is the term used when you want to make changes to an existing structure for various reasons.

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New Construction

When you decide to build a custom home, you and your team (architect, builder, and interior designer) collaborate closely to make decisions about every element of your new home, from the architectural style to how it will be situated on your lot to what type of finishes will be used throughout.


Renovation involves making changes to your existing home. A home renovation can cover anywhere from a single-room remodel to a complete interior gutting. You still have a lot of say in the final product, but your wishes must accommodate an already created space. 

When You Should Consider Renovating:

  • Location, Location, Location- You love your current neighbourhood and would hate to leave. Popular neighbourhoods can be hard to get into. If you don’t want to think about leaving, then renovating might be more suited for you. However, check to make sure there are no available slots in your preferred area for sale first. 
  • Emotionally Attached-You has an emotional attachment to your current home, and the thought of moving makes you cringe. If you don’t want to move from your existing home and have the money to make changes, then renovating is a good option. Just be sure to check with your local municipality to approve your blueprints, as you may not be able to change as much as you would’ve hoped for. 
  • Property Value is Rising- The property value in your neighbourhood is rising, and depending on how much money you spent initially, you could make a more significant return on your investment. Check with a realtor and ask them what the market is like in your area and whether it’s wise for you to sell now or hold on to it a bit longer. 
  • Poor Home Value- Your home is in a prime location, but it needs a lot of work than the other homes in the area. Building a new home can be expensive so selling your current home for top dollar is essential. Renovating your existing home can increase its value and will make it easier for you to sell when/if you decide to. 
  • In Love with Character- Most new homes don’t come with all the character that old houses do. If you’re in love with the old charm of your home and can’t imagine yourself living in a modern home, renovating may be a good choice. You can always add charm to any new build. However, it can be costly depending on the amount of work. 
  • Short Timeline- Building a new house can take time, mainly depending on the time of year and the weather’s cooperation. If you have a short timeline, then renovating is probably the best idea. Depending on the amount of work that needs to be done, renovating typically takes less time than building a new home. 

When You Should Build New:

  • Preferred Lots Available- You love your neighbourhood, but you hate your house. Sometimes the cost of renovating outweighs the cost of starting new. If there are available slots in your ideal neighbourhoods, it might be a good time to consider moving. Lots in popular neighbourhoods can go quick, so if you’re considering building in one of these neighbourhoods, now might be a good time. 
  • Low Resale Value- Before you decide, it’s a good idea to weigh out the costs of renovating versus building. Sometimes the cost of renovating will outdo a home’s resale value. Check with a realtor to make sure you’re not wasting your money on a renovation that will never pay off. If that’s the case, then building new can be a better option. 
  • Unable to Make Changes- You want to make changes to your existing home but can’t. Perhaps your lot is too small, or your permits weren’t approved. Some neighbourhoods are strict on the changes you can make, which can limit your options. Building new can give you more flexibility, and you can get precisely what you want. 
  • Home is structurally unsound- If your home has structural issues, it’s probably easier to tear it down. Unfortunately, not all houses can be saved unless you have the money to spend. It’s always best to check with a structural engineer to be safe. If the home is unsafe and needs a lot of work, it’s probably cheaper to build new.
  • Price-Sometimes building can be cheaper than renovating, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done or the house’s age. Figure out a budget you’re comfortable with and compare which option would be cheaper for you. Something to consider is newer homes tend to have a higher resale value. 
  • Too much Hassle- Sometimes, a small renovation can turn into a big project. There’s a lot of uncertainty regarding renovating since you don’t know what’s inside the walls until you start tearing them down. Things tend to go a bit smoother with fewer surprises when building new, and you know what you’re getting. 
  • Stress-Living through a renovation is stressful. Things can get pretty messy with dust and debris, making it impossible to keep clean. There’s also the hassle of having to move furniture around or put it in storage, making it hard to find things you’re used to having easy access to. Nothing about a renovation is relaxing, especially if you’re doing the work. 

Structural rigidity

My starting point is the structural rigidity of the house. If plans are available, consult your structural engineer so he can advise you if the columns and beams are still strong. This is very critical if you intend to add another floor. Most houses and buildings’ failures are mainly due to an added floor or room over columns and beam not designed to carry additional loads. Common sense dictates that this should not be done. MJS Construction Group has the best range of dual occupancy builder services to help you create your dream house.

Another way is to check the utilities in your old house. Poorly installed, leaking water lines may jack up your water bills, but this is nothing compared to faulty electrical lines that may cause your home to burn down. Fixing these utility lines can be integrated into the renovation works.

Green design principles

One client of mine wanted to expand his house without giving up their garden. Solution? Expand upward. After checking if the columns and beams were strong enough, we applied green design principles to the project.

We recycled and reused many of the existing materials. For example, rafters were reused for the new stairs, stringers and handrail. The old floor tiles were installed in walkways around the garden. The existing French doors were used as clerestory windows to bring more light into the main rooms. Old wrought iron grilles were recycled to enclose certain areas for security needs.

The existing living room was integrated into the new construction through a common wall with high windows looking down on the living room. The living room’s inclined ceiling features clerestory windows with ventilation outlets to create a stack effect, thus making a breeze.

Since most of the bedrooms are on the upper floor, the central garden became the focal point of the living, dining and game rooms, all high-activity areas accessible through glass sliding doors to bring in natural ventilation and daylight.

One sign of a successful renovation project is the seamless integration of the old and the new. No part of the project should stick out like an add-on. With careful planning and close collaboration with the owners, this integration can be successfully done.

Considerations for Renovation

Before you begin to make any change to an existing home, you need to learn as much as possible about the house as it stands. 

For example: 

  • Is the home in a location that makes it worthwhile to renovate?
  • What budget should you stay within to keep your total home value at a saleable level?
  • Do you have access to your home’s original building plans?
  • If you are renovating a historical structure, try to determine if any renovations have been made in the past, what they were, and why they were done. 
  • Are there any hazardous materials that may preclude removal or construction in any area of the home?

Once you have learned as much as you can about your home’s past, dig into the foundation’s structural soundness and health as much you can. If the foundation is cracked or the house’s frame is compromised, there is little use in spending a lot on renovations. Depending on the type and amount of damage, you may find demolishing the existing house and rebuilding to be a better choice.

Study the local restrictions and building codes, or bring on a builder/renovator early so that they can. Historical neighbourhoods often have restrictions on the types of changes you can make to an old home. The restrictions are even tighter on a home that is on the Historical Register.

Ask your builder/renovator about changes in building codes since the house was built. Any new construction must meet the new regulations. Will you need to rewire only the renovated portion, or must you do the whole house once the existing wiring is examined? Will the renovation still make fiscal sense if the mechanical systems need to be revamped entirely? 

Consider future maintenance. The home parts that are not renovated will likely require more maintenance than the newly built spaces. Bringing in system upgrades may reduce the number of repairs and replacement needed soon.

Finally, what is the intended use of the home that causes you to desire renovation? Are you just wanting a refresh? Do you want more room for entertaining, or do you need space for children or aging parents? 

Considerations for Building New

Perhaps you are building because you want to move to a different location, or maybe you have decided to tear down an existing structure to create a new one. Consult with a custom builder and begin by discussing the site where you expect to build.

  • What are the local building codes?
  • What are the weather and the environment like? Do you need to build to resist extreme temperature changes or the possibility of high winds and hail? Are you in a flood plain? 
  • How will the soil impact your plans and foundation design?
  • Are there restrictions in the neighbourhood, such as following a specific architectural style, roof type, or colour scheme?
  • What is the availability of various materials and contract labour?

When building a new custom home, put together your team (architect, builder, and interior designer) to help you answer these questions. Each member brings a different set of skills, experience, and perspective to the table. Together, they can help you design a future home that is perfect for you and your family. 

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As you design your home, consider its intended use. What sort of living areas do you need to fit your lifestyle? How much room do you need? Do you plan to age in place, or will you have elderly parents or tiny children living in the home?

If you have specific ideas, now is the time to bring them out. If there is anything your new home must have, make sure the team understands your needs. Be prepared to go into detail so everyone is on the same page. Also, since this is a new home, be ready to make many decisions, although your design and build team can help you bring those together and make the process smooth. At MJS Construction Group, we have the best dual occupancy selection to make your house a dream come true.

The timeline to completion for a new home is likely to be longer than for a renovation. While complex renovations can take several months, remember that new home construction requires time for approvals and permitting, site preparation, and construction phases. 

Now that you have a rough idea of things you should consider, sit down with your family and come up with your list of essential things to your household’s needs and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Having a better understanding of what you want and what you can help make any decision easier but be realistic. Don’t settle on what you can’t live without but what you can live with temporarily as long as a result is worth it. 

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